Three Things

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run,
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.” – J. Page (Led Zeppelin)

For a number of years now, those who have made a living by making presentations to professional groups, companies or organizations have been focusing on wanting their audiences to remember “three things” from their presentations.  This mindset was fueled by Steven Jobs’ assertion that most people can only hold a maximum of three thoughts in mind simultaneously.  However, if you go back to the time that you were in school, teachers always recommended three citations or sources for any assertion you made within a term paper, thesis, or other major writing assignment.

When I was in the automotive sales business, we were always advised to offer customers three options: buy, lease, or smart buy (which was the combination of both programs offered by the manufacturer at the time).

There are so many instances today where change is required.  Unfortunately, many administrative entities will consider complaints and suggestions from their constituencies, and then announce the plan to move forward.  And that’s where the real problems begin.

Technology has modified the mindset of individual to the point that they want to have input.  Consultants, like Patrick Lencioni, advocate allowing people to express their opinion before a decision is made.  That way, even if their suggestion is not implemented, they feel they have had their say rather than simply being ignored or left out of the process completely.

If you offer people a choice of two directions, in many instances, they also feel they have “no choice,” since the two choices offered could be polarizing to the constituents you serve.  And if you need any proof of that in America today, perhaps you’ve just emerged from your hibernation cave.

The fact is that even if one new direction is offered, it is still one of two paths to follow – the new path, or the “stay the course” path.

It may be helpful to remember that if there are two new directions offered, the third direction could be to maintain the current course of action.  If, however, there is no opportunity to continue the current course for whatever reason (perhaps you’ve come to a fork in the road, and the third path is reverse which is unacceptable if you’re trying to advance), then there must be three paths from which to choose.  Doing so allows for a plan A, a plan B and a plan C to be crafted.

It’s important to remember, however, that “plan A” may not be the preferred option simply because it’s called “plan A.”  Similarly, calling them plans 1, 2 or 3 could be just as dangerous, as it could be assumed that “plan 1” is the preferred plan because it’s the one that’s called “plan 1” because that’s how we’ve been conditioned to think.

I’m sure you’ve heard you should always have a “backup” plan…or a “Plan B.”  With all due respect to Led Zeppelin, you really need three paths.